‘The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’ – Alvin Toffler
How effective is the education that your child receives? As one of the world’s wealthy countries, we could reasonably expect that our education system would rate as one of the world’s best, and certainly in terms of spending on education, Singapore’s record is very good, but it seems that our report card – along with those of all major developed countries – should read: ‘Must do better’.
Around the world, education systems are struggling to remain relevant in a changing world. Far too often they are failing to prepare students for life in the ‘new economies’.
So, what does all this mean to parents, struggling to make the right educational choices for their children? And what does it mean to a nation like Singapore today?
For the individual, there is no way to over-estimate the importance of education.
Many may score well in basic literacy and number skills but performance even in these areas is often based on the wealth and social position of the students. And besides, education suited for the new millennium is not the same as in previous decades. The new economy, brought about by the huge changes of the communications revolution, means that the skills which will be valued are far more wide-ranging than the ‘three Rs’ of the past. Literacy and number skills are still vital, but the successful person in the future will be the person with wide-ranging abilities – the person ‘able to navigate change and diversity, learn-as-they-go, solve problems, collaborate and be flexible and creative.’ (New Learning: A Charter for Australian Education – Australian Council of Deans of Education (A.C.D.E.)
Creative teachers have understood this for decades, but education systems, are slow to adapt frustrating most attempts at meaningful evolution.
Education suited to our children’s needs must help them cope as individuals in a complex world. Experts predict that today’s students will be the first in history to face the prospect of working at ten – or more – different jobs during their working lives. They will need thinking and learning skills that are creative and flexible. Adaptability will be their most prized possession.
In reality, there is a danger, that outside pressures and the time constraints of an over-crowded curriculum distract us from the traditional purpose of good schooling, which is to turn out a well-rounded, decent human being.
Britain’s Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made his intentions clear in 1997, with his statement of priorities: ‘Education, Education, Education.’ Only in 2014, Singapore’s minister for education, Teo Chee Hean said, ‘education is about moulding the future of our nation’. He was right of course, but he might also have said, ‘education is about moulding the future of each individual.’
The challenge for each of us is to find the method of learning best suited to the demands of that future.
by Mr Brian Caswell, MindChamps‘ Dean of Research & Programme Development